CONCORD, N.H. — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is giving more time for people to comment on a proposal to establish the “Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge” in New England and New York to preserve more shrubland and young forests for numerous species, such as the New England cottontail.

People will now have until April 3 to submit comments on the project. The original deadline was March 4.

The agency has identified areas in New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. The goal is to gain up to 15,000 acres.

The agency says many areas across the Northeast have been cleared for development or have grown into mature forests. Private landowners and conservation groups have worked with state wildlife agencies to restore and protect land for 65 songbirds, mammals, reptiles and other wildlife, but more land is needed.

“We’ve heard from a variety of partners and other stakeholders across New England and New York that more user groups are hearing of the Great Thicket proposal and could use more time,” said Scott Kahan, Northeast chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System. “Given the large nature of this project, we would like to provide people with an additional month to review, meet with us, provide information to their colleagues, and submit comments.”

Following the comment period, the agency will review public comments, develop responses, make adjustments to the plan as needed, and prepare a final land protection plan.

If the plan is approved by the Service’s director, a final version will be released to the public, and the agency can begin working with interested landowners.